And yet, for all the thing’s impracticality, a trebuchet is the thing to have now. There is scarcely a house built anywhere inside the city limits that does not have a trebuchet in the driveway next to the SUV or out in the backyard next to the swimming pool. Condo owners keep theirs on the roof. I must admit that it is hard at this juncture to know if this is simply a local fad or the first small indicator of a much wider trend. Frankly, I don’t understand the attraction. Having your own trebuchet is fine, I guess, if you enjoy that sort of thing, but no one seems to know why we’re all so suddenly mad to own our own little bit of the Middle Ages. It’s certainly a great conversation piece, and it’s great for hurling dead cats and dogs and other roadkill across the river into the slough of urban despond directly across the river from our happy little burg. The kids love watching the carcasses arc high over the river, flopping head over heels as they fly through the air, and then disappear into what’s left of the business district over there, although the merchants are getting more than a little annoyed at having to clean dead raccoons off the sidewalks in front of their stores every morning. This trebuchet thing started as a rich man’s fad, but now anyone can get in on the action. The local Wal-Mart is selling a trebuchet kit for those who enjoy the aggravation of trying to put things together with an instruction manual computer translated from an obscure Chinese dialect, and for the classically minded and those not so well off there’s a line of mangonels and onagers, and for the poorest consumers, a consortium of office supply companies has gotten into the market with a very large rubber band that an enterprising kid can stretch from one tree to another and shoot his little sister over into Connecticut.
It’s hard to explain why some fads start; I am old enough to remember the 1970’s, when there was a new fad every twenty seconds or so. Fads came and went with such regularity then that you could set your watch by them, and no sooner had one arrived that it was gone again, waiting for its inevitable revival some twenty years later as the retro look. The problem with such fads is that they don’t really change, whereas those of us who wallowed in them have, and now we look back at the embarrassing cretins with bad hair and skin we were then and wonder what the hell were we thinking. I mean, really, the mullet? Whose bright idea was that, anyway? Maybe if there was a revival of any other decade I could understand the fascination, but the Seventies were more or less awful, with an emphasis on the more and a corresponding lack of emphasis on the less, a time when egregious taste and Jimmy Carter, if that is not actually redundant, ruled the land, and if you don’t think so, I still have my lime green leisure suit stuffed up in the attic somewhere.